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WISH-TV joins industry group in fundraiser to help restaurant, hotel workers

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (WISH) — WISH-TV is proud to partner with the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association to host a fundraiser to support thousands of hospitality workers who are now out of jobs or have taken serious pay cuts because of the coronavirus.

For weeks, many hospitality workers have been left wondering where their next paycheck will come from.

Marie Damler owns two Ben’s Pretzels locations, one in Brownsburg and the other in Southport. They are one of the many restaurants feeling the sting of the coronavirus pandemic. Since the pandemic, her stores have seen about a 40% decrease in revenue.

“Not as many people have the money to buy extra, although everybody needs to eat,” Damler said.

Damler and many other restaurant owners have had to cut employees’ hours, with some workers unable to work at all because they are at high risk or need to stay home with family.

“We used to schedule out two or three weeks in a row, but now it is just week-by-week and it can change any day,” Damler said.

Damler is trying to find any ways she can to cut costs so she can keep her doors open.

“Basically breaking even, so to cut costs, we make sure we keep the bare minimum of supplies in stock, and I am the owner. This is my son. So we are not taking any payroll. We are not taking any money out of it at all,” Damler said.

Different from other brick-and-mortar stores, Damler’s restaurant is a grab-and-go because of where her store is located. Thus, she has not had deal with the consequences that many dine-in restaurants are.

“I was not having to deal with that loss. Thank the Lord that we are in a grocery store,” Damler said.

Damler says for her business, it is similar to a “winter storm” situation, except this time there is no end in sight.

“Now you don’t even know how to do that because there is so much uncertainty of, ‘When is it going to end? How long are you going to have to do it?’” Damler said.

For her employees, Damler says, having their community rally around them during such an unprecedented time gives them hope that things will get better.

“It does a lot for them mentally knowing that they have the support, that they can get it, that will be coming, that they are not alone,” Damler said.

On Thursday, the Hoosiers Helping Hoosiers fundraiser will launch, starting at 4 a.m. and running until 11:30 p.m. Anyone can make donations to support out-of-work restaurant workers, bartenders and hotel workers in central Indiana.

There are several ways you can donate.

These are the items up for auction:

  • Indiana Fever basketball signed by Natalie Achonwa
  • Indiana Pacers jersey signed by Victor Oladipo, with a certificate of authentication
  • Indianapolis Indians jersey signed by Razor Shines
  • Indy Eleven jersey signed by Paddy Barrett and an unsigned Indy Eleven souvenir t-shirt
  • Indianapolis Colts jersey signed by T.Y. Hilton

Also Thursday on, viewers will find information on how to bid on several items donated by the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers and Indy Eleven.